Pianist/keyboardist Sam Barsh was born May 18, 1981, in Chicago, IL. His parents were not musicians, but they exposed him to recordings of the Beatles, James Taylor, Jewish music, and oldies while on family car excursions. He started playing piano at age four, and took schoolwork through the Romona Elementary School and Junior High in Wilmette and the New Trier Township High School in Winnetka. His early favorites were Billy Joel, Duke Ellington, De La Soul, Count Basie, and Oscar Peterson. During his early years he was mentored by Alan Swain, Frank Portolese, Mike Kocour, and Eric Baumgartner, while expanding his keyboard horizons to the organ, synthesizers, vintage keyboards, and melodica. Barsh then moved to metro New York City in 1999 to attend William Paterson University's jazz studies program on a full-tuition presidential scholarship, graduating magna cum laude in 2003.
Based in New York City since 2001, the keyboardist has worked alongside Zach Brock, Cassandra Wilson, Jeff Parker, Boyz II Men, Bobby McFerrin, the Brand New Heavies, Robin Eubanks, Debbie Friedman, Branford Marsalis, Lonnie Plaxico, Christophe Schweizer, Dave Samuels, Frank Lacy, the Mighty Blue Kings, Omar Edwards, Mino Cinelu, Rez Abbasi, Kenny Wollesen, Curtis Watts, Nguyên Lê, Ben Monder, Hans Glawischnig, and Todd Carey. His most fruitful work and acclaimed credit as a sideman was as a member of bassist Avishai Cohen's trio from 2003-2006, recording three CDs and a live DVD, and performing concerts worldwide.
Forming his own group, Barsh has recorded another two CDs playing more contemporary jazz-funk. He continues his association with violinist Zach Brock & the Coffee Achievers, with whom he has toured and made two CDs and a live CD/DVD, and has also collaborated with Detroit area jazz vocalist Jesse Palter. A clinician of note, he has conducted workshops at Yale University; the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh; the University of Capetown-South Africa; Knox College in Galesburg, IL; LaGuardia Community College in Queens, NY; the University Preparatory Academy in Detroit, MI; the Drum Collective in New York City; and the Theodore Roosevelt Academy in the Bronx; as well as public and private high schools throughout the United States.